Below are three different draft visions I recently wrote envisioning a Transformational Learning Center. I’d love to receive any feedback, suggestions, encouragement, etc. you want to send from the Contact page. Thank you!
It is 2020 and we – the members of the Ecovillage and Transformational Learning Center (TLC) – are celebrating our 5 year anniversary. We are a smiling circle of 50 people of all ages gathered for our mid-summer festival, celebrating the vibrant community we are co-creating. It is twilight and we see bats circling among the fruit and nut trees in the community commons. A group of young women is lighting a bonfire in the center of the circle as we begin to tell stories of the founding of our community, when a core group of us bought a house, started a garden, and began offering a range of transformational learning groups. I look around at our community home and my heart bursts. There is green everywhere: a permaculture food forest, grape vines, sunflowers, and so much more. The budding ecovillage community consists of clusters of various sized dwellings, designed to support maximum flexibility and integration of individual and family privacy and solitude on the one hand, and plentiful and easy access to companionship, collaboration and social activity, on the other. Homemade whole food meals are available every day in the community dining hall, but people are also welcome to cook and/or eat at home, by themselves or with a partner or friend, when they are wanting more quiet or intimacy. There are dedicated meditation sanctuaries for silence indoors, as well as meditation gardens outside, all buffered from the more active areas for adults and children, where there is a constant hum of collaborative activity, laughter, play, building, and creative expression. A green builder with a team of young apprentices is working on another series of eco-efficient tiny homes, each elegant dwelling with its unique vibrant coloring and particular design. A master permaculture designer has her own team of apprentices and students learning from her as they prune the apple, plum, and pear trees in the food forest. A big display inside the community center announces an array of offerings for the week: yoga, meditation, co-counseling, nonviolent communication, empathic listening circle, restorative circles, open space marketplace, potluck, dance, co-working, child care, homeschooling circle, permaculture gardening, creative writing circle, aikido, improv, tantra, collaborative economics and more.
The permaculture gardens and fruit and nut trees are heavy with their late summer bounty, and there is a large Earth flag swaying gently in the breeze in front of the brightly painted TLC. It’s a sunny weekday evening and there are some younger children playing on, in, and around a large jungle gym/climbing structure/tree house, while other children of various ages are picking fruit from some plum and apple trees, collecting their harvest carefully in baskets, and pausing every so often to enjoy a snack on one of the fruit. A family rides by on their bicycles and calls out a warm greeting to the children. In a courtyard in the back of the TLC, a varied group of 12 or so teens and adults of all ethnicities and appearances are sitting in a circle in the meditation garden having a lively conversation about the transformation of a nearby road into a mixed use pedestrian zone/bicycle path/restored wetland. They are animatedly and fluidly inviting everyone’s voices, weaving together various perspectives into an integrated proposal they will be bringing to the neighborhood council. On a table in the circle are various snacks produced in the community kitchen in the TLC, or straight from the gardens – goat cheese, kimche, snap peas, peaches, kombucha. The TLC itself is a two-story building with a large front porch, where a few couples from the neighborhood are having heart-to-heart conversations with each other, or just enjoying the lively and varied scene all around them. Just in the front double-doors of the TLC is a large blackboard with a daily schedule of activities freely available to the public: 6am morning yoga, 7am morning meditation, empathy circle, empowerment & leadership skills, creative self-expression, deep democracy & collaborative decision-making, intimacy, fermentation, tree pruning, natural building workshop, improvisation, cooperative entrepreneurship. Certain services are available 6am-9pm every day, including co-working in the shared office, supervised children’s activity space, and emergency empathy & restorative circle facilitation.
We’re at the final weekend gathering of the year-long TLC program. There are smiles on the faces of all the men and women sitting in a circle in the courtyard. As I look around, I feel a glow in my heart as I look at the faces of people who have become dear friends over the past year. We are a lively, inspiring, and supportive family of friends and allies. We woke up this morning at 6am for yoga and meditation, and now we’re reflecting on all of our celebrations and accomplishments since we formed this circle a year ago. We’ve started two new community permaculture gardens, helped successfully launch the Beloved Café, and co-founded a new intentional community house. Two members of the circle have co-authored a book on Transformational Learning Communities. And half of the members of the circle have made substantial progress toward certification as Nonviolent Communication trainers. Over the course of the weekends we’ve had together, we’ve shared scary honesty, designed and planted Permaculture gardens, learned about and worked on natural buildings, facilitated Restorative Circles for ourselves and the wider community, practiced collaborative decision-making, and created our own local currency system. At our gatherings we have offered and received conscious feedback from one another, helping each other recognize both our current learning edges and our amazing gifts. We’ve written blogs, poems and songs, given public talks, and filmed inspiring YouTube videos. In the evenings we’ve danced and told stories, made music together, played games, and cuddled. Each member of the community has maintained a blog and/or a vlog, as well as a daily spiritual practice. We shared and read inspiring articles and books, and watched consciousness expanding films. Last gathering we did a street retreat, and for the spring gathering we went on a vision quest. Between our quarterly gatherings, we met in our own local weekly practice groups, and had monthly co-learning and mentoring calls. We’ve started and supported a variety of political campaigns and social environmental causes. As we reflect back on the year, there is a sense of joy and awe at the depths we have explored within and among ourselves, as well as in connection with our local communities and the wider world. Grace fills the circle.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this draft visions! Again, I’d love to receive any feedback, suggestions, encouragement, etc. you want to send from the Contact page.